With seasoned aces Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo on board, the Philippines is out to wage a stronger fight as it hosts the second leg of the inaugural Southeast Asia (SEA) Volleyball League on Friday at the City of Santa Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna.

Bagunas and Espejo, two of the country’s top spikers, will mark their national team return in the VLeague to form a lethal troika with rising star Steven Rotter, who earned Best Opposite Spiker honors in the first leg held in Jakarta last week.

“They’re experienced players. They’re smart. They can share their experiences with others,” said national men’s team head coach Sergio Veloso as his wards brace for their SEA neighbors anew.

“We can make a stronger job. I feel we can play better now.”

The Philippines takes on Thailand at 7 p.m. for the main event after the opener between Vietnam and Indonesia at 4 p.m. Up next for the hosts are Indonesia and Vietnam on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

More than the games, the Philippines is putting a premium on another international tournament after successfully hosting the Volleyball Nations League Men’s Week 3 earlier this month at the Mall of Asia Arena for the second straight year.

“Men’s volleyball is getting popular and we’re very happy to have our close neighbors with us here. We hope to expand next year with more countries,” said Philippine National Volleyball Federation president Ramon “Tats” Suzara in the event presser Thursday at the Seda Nuvali.

“This tournament is very important for Southeast Asia as we, the Philippines along with Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are bidding to host the 2025 Volleyball Women’s World Championship,” he added.

The SEA VLeague—presented by PLDT and backed by the City of Santa Rosa, Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission, One Sports and Cignal, is a brainchild of Suzara and Thailand federation president Shanrit Wongprasert.

The Filipino spikers went winless in three games in Jakarta but not without a fight, especially in the last match where they held a 2-0 lead against Vietnam only to run out of steam in a tough five-setter defeat.

Indonesia, led by MVP Fahry Septian Putratama, completed an unbeaten to become the first leg champion as Thailand and Vietnam completed the podium.
This time at home, the Philippines spikes for a breakthrough.

“It’s a competition so our target is victory,” added Veloso.

The SEA VLeague women’s division will be held on August 4 to 6 in Vihn Phuc, Vietnam, and from August 11 to 13 in Chiangmai, Thailand.